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Good Guy, The
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by Jay Seaver

"Good and Gooder"
4 stars

Tommy Fielding (Scott Porter) is a pretty good guy, especially considering he's a Wall Street trader. He doesn't overindulge; he isn't pressuring his girlfriend Beth (Alexis Bledel) to have sex even though it's been a couple months and his ex Christie (Jeane Fournier) is obviously still available. When one of his traders gets a better offer, he wishes him well and tells his boss Cash (Andrew McCarthy) that he'd like to promote tech whiz Daniel Seaver (Bryan Greenberg), because he's honest.

And, man, is Daniel honest. He comes to Wall Street after three years in the Air Force, but he's no cocky flyboy, but a former avionics engineer, which is his second go-to conversation topic after classic literature. He's likably awkward and shy, but that's something of a liability in dealing with clients. So Tommy takes it upon himself to get Daniel cleaned up and pulled out of his shell. The next time you go into a bookstore, Tommy says, talk to a girl while you stand in line. Naturally, that girl happens to be Beth.

By this point, the audience has maybe settled in enough to forget that the title is not in the plural form, but even if not, there's still a number of ways this can play out. Are we looking at an "I've created a monster" situation? Is Tommy only a good guy until he senses a threat, at which point the killer instinct makes itself known in order to smite Daniel? Even among the standards, there are a lot of ways to play this, and writer/director Julio DePietro deserves some credit for choosing the one that contains relatively little obvious melodrama, mostly just letting it play out by the characters remaining true to themselves.

Mostly. When DePietro does pull the camera back a little bit to show us what other things may be having an impact on the triangle, it initially feels like a bit of a cheat, and I'm not sure that DePietro hasn't lied to the audience on one point (more likely, he's been hair-splittingly selective with what he shows). As those sort of things go, though, I like the way he handles it; half a conversation that doesn't go quite as expected, and then re-evaluation, without flashbacks.

That everything works so well afterward says good things about the cast. None of them have particularly flashy parts, but they all inhabit them nicely, making a good ensemble. Porter and Greenberg, especially, do excellent work at finding middle ground in characters who are more often than not played as stereotypes: Porter makes Tommy a hard-charging banker without making him abrasive, while Greenberg manages to play up Daniel's initial awkwardness without ever making him look foolish (though still managing plenty of laughs). Alexis Bledel is her usual charming self as Lisa , although she's in constant danger of being upstaged by her friends, Anna Chlumsky (as the girl who seems like a perfect fit for Daniel) and Jessalyn Wanlim (as the more outspoken one). Plent of comic relief from Tommy's friends and co-workers, too - Aaron Yoo and Andrew Stewart-Jones aren't deep characters, but they are almost always good for a laugh.

And that's important; as much as The Good Guy could easily have been mean-spirited or cynical, given its setting and the types of characters who inhabit it, it instead manages to maintain a pleasant youthful optimism. Yes, DePietro is a little clumsy getting there; not just in what I mentioned before, but in how he not only name-drops Ford Maddox Ford's The Good Soldier as a potential entry for Beth's book club, but spells out just how it parallels the story rather baldly. It may not hold out much hope for its less noble characters, but it doesn't make them wholly repugnant. Most importantly, it believes in its good ones, even though pessimism is the more dramatic, though easier, way to go.

In that spirit, I'll bump it just enough of a fraction of a star to get it to round up. (And, yes, I have a brother named Daniel. Yes, that probably caused me to enjoy this movie the tiniest bit more than I would have otherwise.)

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originally posted: 03/08/10 08:35:07
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Tribeca Film Festival For more in the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival series, click here.

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  DVD: 22-Jun-2010



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